WARREN - An overwhelming number of Ohio voters surveyed by Quinnipiac University say hydraulic fracturing in Ohio should be stopped until further studies are done on its impact, poll results released Thursday show.
But they also say they believe drilling will create jobs in Ohio, and that there should be drilling in Ohio because of the potential economic benefits.
It's the first statewide poll done on hydraulic fracturing, the process of extracting natural gas and oil from underground deposits.
''Ohio voters are conflicted on hydro-fracking. They recognize the economic value of drilling for fossil fuels in the state, but are worried about potential environmental risks of the specific technique,'' said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Fracking is the process by which natural gas is extracted from dense shale deposits, including the vast Marcellus Shale beneath Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York and the deeper Utica Shale.
The shale formations contain enough natural gas that some experts predict they could have political and economic implications worldwide.
Locally, the shale has been credited with urging V&M Star to build a $650 million expansion and Ultra Premium Oilfield Services to open a new factory in Brookfield. Those two projects are expected to add more than 500 local jobs, according to the companies.
The presence of Utica Shale also has brought energy companies to the Valley looking to secure the rights to the natural gas.
The results of the poll show that 72 percent of voters say fracking should be stopped until there are further studies, and 43 percent say that fracking would damage the environment, compared to 16 percent who believe it won't. Forty percent were undecided.
In addition, voters say 64 to 29 percent that economic benefits outweigh environmental concerns, and 85 percent believe drilling would create jobs.
Fifty-nine percent say they have read or heard anything about fracking.
State Rep. Bob Hagan said the poll numbers confirm what he's been saying, ''The people three-to-one want a moratorium and more studies to be reassured that is being done safely, it will create jobs and it's not going to damage the environment,'' the Youngstown Democrat said.
''I understand the polling, the people want jobs,'' he said. ''I've never said I'm opposed to the drilling, but I am continuing to say it's important to be done in an environmentally safe way.''
Ohio Shale Coalition Executive Director Linda Woggon said the poll says a couple things, that people in Ohio understand the potential impact of oil and natural gas in Ohio's economic future, and that there needs to be more education about the process.
''Only a slight majority have even heard of hydraulic fracturing, which has been conducted in Ohio for years without incident,'' she said. ''So it's understandable that the poll shows uncertainty about the process.
''We respect those concerns and will work better to educate the public about the safety of the process even as we encourage environmental responsibility,'' she said.
The poll of 1,610 registered voters was done from Jan. 9 to 16.